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Show-Me: The Real Story Behind That Label


As you probably already well know, we live in the Show Me State. That nickname has been an inspiration for businesses and names all over Missouri. There’s Sho-me-power, the electric co-op, here locally. Then there’s the Show-me-center, Southeast Missouri State University’s arena, several hours east of us. Still plenty more examples abide. It is such a part of our consciousness and lingo that it just flows off the tongue. But how did it get to be that way? What is the history behind the coining of this phrase?

Well, there are several different versions of that account. According to one, it was from U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, at a speech he gave at a Naval banquet in 1899, in Philadelphia. He told his audience, "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me." We do not know for sure that this was the first use of the term, however, but even if it wasn’t the invention of it, it probably popularized the saying.

Another anecdote claims that it’s from the mid-1890s, when Joplin, Missourians traveled up to Colorado to work in a mine, to take the place of striking Colorado employees. The Missourians, of course, weren’t familiar with the specific mining techniques used there, since they were new to the job. The bosses commented on the Missourians, perhaps not so kindly, "That man is from Missouri. You'll have to show him."

No matter the start of this affectionate moniker, it has certainly had staying power. Nowadays, it has come to symbolize our less than gullible nature, as the matter-of-fact, pragmatic manner that many Missourians embody. Whatever the reason, it is one thing that makes us distinctive as a state, and is a heritage to be proud of, as Missourians.


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